RE: NROL-20: 48 ft fairing

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Wed Oct 19 2005 - 11:12:01 EDT

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    John Locker wrote:
    > Hi Ted...... and list.
    > As Ted has found in the past , sometimes the  mission patch can reveal
    > some info...
    > Have a look at...
    > especially the one on the right.
    > Are those just random stars , or do they hint at the satellite
    > constellations.
    Very interesting indeed, John!
    The three bright stars on the right could be symbolic of the three KeyHoles
    already in orbit. The one immediately to the right of the rocket would be USA
    129 (96072A / 24680), in the standard western KH plane. The next one further
    right would be USA 161 (01044A / 26934), in the standard eastern KH plane. The
    one on the farthest right would be USA 116 (95066A / 23728), which had been in
    the eastern plane until replaced by USA 161, and which now is in a retirement
    orbit, not far to the east of USA 161.
    The lone bright star to the left could be Misty 2 (99028A / 25744). Unlike the
    KHs, its orbit is not sun-synchronous, so its plane moves in relation to the
    others, so it makes sense to draw it far away from them.
    Then there is the rocket's fairing. The bottom of the fairing's boat tail
    appears to be 134 pixels from the top of the image. The top of the cone appears
    to be 75 pixels from the top, for a length of 59 pixels. The width of the
    fairing is about 20 pixels. Given the fairing's known standard 16.67 ft
    diameter, the height = 59 / 20 * 16.67 = 49 ft. That is close to the announced
    48 ft, which to me suggests a Misty.
    As a reality check, if the fairing was to have been 66 ft, as used for the
    previous KH, USA 161, then the top of the cone should have been 55 pixels from
    the top, which is a bit higher than the hyphen in the "T-IV" caption above the
    Let's see what the photographs reveal.
    Ted Molczan
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